In praise of the lowly cowl

Whisper it quietly - I own (and wear) a number of cowls. For really cold weather I have stretchy synthetic buffs that I wear while out running and a Stephen West Windschief cowl that Jen made for me years ago.

Because they cover my throat completely and don’t need constant readjustment, I prefer cowls to nearly all of the scarves I have.

As knitting projects, cowls are excellent for beginners: take some pretty variegated yarn, cast on some stitches and join in the round, knit round and round and round until you have enough depth or get bored, then cast off. This simplicity of construction also makes cowls ideal as test beds for new techniques, be it new edgings, a new cast on/off, or something within the body of the knitting. The lack of shaping means you can concentrate on working on the thing you are trying to perfect, without getting bogged down and distracted by additional instructions.

It’s something I’ve done myself. A little over a year ago, I attended a class on inspiration for Fair Isle designs by Donna Smith at Shetland Wool Week. The motif I produced could have quite easily been used on a hat, but lacking the time to work out how to get the crown shaping to come out to my satisfaction, I instead made a cowl. In doing so, I proved to myself that how you hold the yarns in stranded colourwork really does have a significant impact on how your work looks. And my niece got a unique Christmas present.


Compare the arrows above and below the central purple peerie motif and you see what I mean.

It will come as no surprise that cowls feature in Something New to Learn About Helical Knitting. That is not to say that it is a collection made up exclusively of cowls. As a starting point for an in-the-round method, they are great, but it is important to be able to progress from the most simple of constructions to something more complex. I know I’m ready to move on, having knitted the vast majority of the swatches we used for the tutorials. The list grew as we worked on the book and each time I thought I’d finished, one of us would have a further idea that needed to be included. I wonder whether there is a market for a collection, or even series of collections of swatches called Ooh, Could You Just Make Me A…

The first chapter, consisting of tutorials and the first pattern, of Something New to Learn About Helical Knitting will be released tomorrow. If you are considering buying the eBook, the Early Bird offer expires very soon. It is available from Ravelry, or our online shop. (If you are in Australia, you will need to pay 10% GST if you buy through Ravelry, but not if you buy direct from our shop)

The KAL in our Ravelry group officially starts tomorrow, so cast on, knit spirals until you are dizzy and show us what you’re up to.